Cyprus Journalists Join Forces to Build a Bridge Against Hate

Journalists in Cyprus have launched a ground-breaking programme to help break an information impasse that has been in place since Turkish military action in the north led to the division of the country in 1974.

Leaders of journalists’ unions and the two media councils, responsible for self-regulation of media on both sides of the divide, met in the demilitarised buffer zone that separates the country’s Greek and Turkish-speaking communities on October 9 for a series of meetings with Harlem Désir, the recently-appointed Representative on Freedom of the Media of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Désir, whose office leads the only intergovernmental media watchdog in the world covering 57 countries, announced two new initiatives in support of Cypriot journalists.

Firstly, a pioneering media exchange project, which for the first time will see selected young journalists from neighbouring communities working in the newsrooms of media outlets on the other side of the political divide.

In a separate session with the young journalists taking part in the exchange Harlem Désir urged them to use the opportunity to strengthen links with other colleagues and to share the benefits of their experience with their home audiences.

“This project will widen the professional networks of young journalists,” he said, “and it will increase understanding in both communities about the lives of their neighbours.”

At the same time, the country’s two press councils and unions of journalists gave their unanimous backing to a proposal for the creation of a joint glossary of insensitive words and potentially inflammatory speech to counter stereotypes and hate speech in media reporting.

The glossary initiative will be produced in Greek, Turkish and English and the Director of the Ethical Journalism Network, Aidan White, has been asked to lend his support and edit the glossary.

White told the meeting that the initiative reinforces efforts to strengthen journalism across the island. He said: “It is also a signal that political and community leaders, many of whom are to blame for intemperate speech in the first place, must also watch their language.”

The meeting is the latest phase of Cyprus Dialogue, a bi-communal effort launched in March this year. The programme bring together Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot journalists to strengthen media and journalism.

In April, the EJN and the European Federation of Journalists, supported a one-day meeting on ethical journalism, self-regulation and improving working conditions which involved OSCE experts and 40 journalists from both communities including leaders of the Cyprus Journalists’ Union, the Turkish Cypriot Journalists’ Union and the Basin Sen Press Workers’ Union.

All three organisations signed a joint memorandum in which they agreed to work together and to support all journalists on issues of safety and security, access to information and strengthening ethics and quality of journalism.